For the past few months, I've been seriously cutting down on how many cosmetic and toiletry products I use every day. Initially, my main goal in this was to cut down on my plastic waste, which I did by eliminating products that weren't really necessary (like face cleansers, nail polish remover, and shower gel), and making my own products where I could (I made my own moisturizer, body butter, mouthwash, and deodorant).
But there's an added benefit of paring down your cosmetics and making your own where you can - you naturally cut down on a lot of potentially toxic ingredients that are often found in store-bought products.
WHAT'S IN YOUR SHAMPOO, ANYWAY?
I recently went back to the Story of Stuff website to watch some more of their videos. There is a great one about cosmetics and the potentially harmful ingredients in them. Did you know that there are no regulations around the words "herbal", "natural", and "organic" in the world of cosmetics? That means that any brand can use these words to market their products, regardless of what's in them.
Did you further know that the FDA isn't required to approve ingredients in cosmetics before they are packaged, marketed, and sold?
HOW CAN WE STAY PROTECTED?
Take a look at the ingredients label of some of your products. If they're mainstream brands, they more than likely have a few ingredients you have a hard time pronouncing. Just what are these ingredients? And are they potentially harmful?
A great way to find out is to visit safercosmetics.org, which goes into great depth about some of the most harmful ingredients in mainstream products, their potential side effects, and the repercussions of their widespread distribution.
There's also a great app called Think Dirty, which you can download on your phone and use on any product in any store. Just scan the product's bar code into the app, and you'll get a rundown of what's in the product and what it might mean for you.
And if you're looking for some guidance about what brands to shop without worrying that you're buying anything that's toxic or carcinogenic, head over to Made Safe for a roundup of brands that make safe cosmetics and toiletries of all kinds, from lipstick to laundry detergent to condoms.
TURN YOUR BRAIN ON
Above all, care about what ingredients are in the stuff you put directly on your hair, face, and body. Read the labels. If there's a mystery ingredient among them, find out what it is, and what side effects it could potentially have for you, your family, and the factory workers who put the stuff into its bottle. Awareness is the first step in protecting yourself and staying healthy.